Mike Fietz

In the event that a pet loses his vision, there are many steps an owner can take to keep him familiar with his surroundings. Photo: File photo

When pets lose their vision

There’s something magical about eyes. Sleek and precise, they seem built of different stuff than the rest of our physical selves—something more deeply connected to the root of who we are. This may be true in more than the poetic sense. Embryologically, the eyes sprout directly from the same clump of cells that go on […]

The sweet taste of rat poison and antifreeze can lure dogs into ingesting them. Photo: file photo

Not so safe haven: The dangers of common household poisons

From toilet cleaner to paint thinner, most homes are stocked with at least a few poisons that need to be kept safely away from pets and children. And while it’s certainly worth minding where you store the Windex—ammonia is nasty—I’ve never seen a pet consume any. So rather than panic about every single bottle with […]

Doggy sweaters have a practical use beyond keeping them on trend. Photo: File photo

Canine couture: When dog clothes make sense

Another year, another Internet controversy. Although it hasn’t reached the fever pitch of last year’s ambiguously colored dress, I understand that people are now very concerned about whether a dog’s pants should cover all four legs or just the hind two. There isn’t much sense to the question, of course. It’s hard to imagine any […]

Photo: File photo

An arm and a leg: The basics of animal anatomy

The leaves are crunchy beneath my feet, the comforter is back on the bed and every single thing on the menu has been ruined with an overdose of pumpkin spice. Must be autumn. This is also the unusual time of year when we hang skeletons from our front doors. If you’re a normal person, they […]

The truth about cats and dogs is that they couldn’t be more different when it comes to thyroid malfunction. Photo: File photo

Highs and lows: When your pet has a thyroid problem

“Are you a cat person or a dog person?” I’m asked on a regular basis, as if my answer might reveal some medical truth concerning the objective superiority of one species over the other. As it happens, I share my home with one of each, offering sound excuse to shrug my shoulders and dodge the […]

Your observations about your pet’s health are just as important as your pet’s veterinarian’s during a checkup. Photo: File photo

What’s the point?: The rhyme and reason of routine visits

“What are you looking for?” asks a client as my hands press deep into the sides of his dog’s belly. I’m surprised for a moment. It’s such a simple and reasonable question, but it hardly ever gets asked amidst the routine of a physical examination. I’m not even sure what to make of it at […]

Pets can enjoy snacks from your gourmet dining experience, but it’s best that it’s in small doses and not a regular part of their diet. Photo: File photo

They are what you eat: Sharing your dinner with family pets

One of the stranger artifacts of working in an animal-centric profession is the need to clarify any time that we’re talking about the human world. We find ourselves saying awkward things like “I’m going to the people doctor” and “I need to pick up some people food.” I’ve always liked the latter. It evokes the […]

Bombs bursting in air: Keeping your pets calm on the fourth

Bombs bursting in air: Keeping your pets calm on the fourth

There are few concepts more quintessentially American than gathering friends and family for a gluttonous grill-out followed by a gratuitously deafening show of explosions in the sky. While a simulated artillery strike makes for a perfectly sensible human celebration, our pets understandably tend to interpret the ruckus as the end of the world. Indeed, veterinarians […]

Taking a summer vacation? Leaving your pet in the hands of a professional caretaker will relieve their stress, and yours.

Out of town: When the pets can’t come along

With the weather finally turning its back on an all-too-frosty winter, it’s the time of year when thoughts turn to sunny beaches, cross-country road trips and foreign excursions. But even the happiest summer plans can be darkened by the problem of what to do with the pets while you’re away. As the owner of a […]

Changing lanes: Easing your transition to a new vet

Changing lanes: Easing your transition to a new vet

“He absolutely loved his old vet,” says the recent transplant to Charlottesville, making it abundantly clear that I’m about to step into some mighty large shoes. I understand the trepidation, of course. In many cases, I even share it. Your previous veterinarian is someone you built a relationship with. She knew your animals and their […]

Outfoxed: Why your healthy pet still needs vaccines

Outfoxed: Why your healthy pet still needs vaccines

I’ve been in practice for more than a decade, and I feel lucky to have never seen a case of canine distemper. It’s a mean virus, to be sure, killing more than half of its victims (most of which are puppies). It often starts innocently enough with a runny nose, but progresses to ravage the […]

Dog bath? Sure. Cat bath? Watch out.

Wet and wild: Less than one way to clean a cat

“How often should I bathe my cat?” I’m asked with surprising frequency. It’s a perfectly valid question, but anybody who’s ever bathed a cat will understand that it usually answers itself the moment you dare to try. I remember my first job at a veterinary hospital in high school. My inaugural assignment? Bathe this cat. […]

Encouraging dogs and cats to share space is simple with close supervision and private feline retreats. File photo.

Mass hysteria: Getting dogs and cats to live together

Sure, we’ve got Coke versus Pepsi, Yankees versus Red Sox, and Apple versus Android. But do any of these really hold a candle to the age-old rivalry between cats and dogs? If their depiction in pop culture is any indication, they’ve been squaring off since the dawn of time. I’m always a bit envious when […]

Counter intuitive: The hidden dangers of drug store staples

Counter intuitive: The hidden dangers of drug store staples

From aspirin to antacids, we take it for granted that there are dozens of medications readily available for purchase without a prescription. The familiarity of these products in everyday life implies a degree of safety when used properly, and it is not a large stretch to assume that they are similarly safe in pets. But […]

The Monticello-Saunders Trail is a classic local spot for all hikers, four-legged and otherwise. 

Take a hike: Getting your dog ready for the trail

From the Monticello-Saunders Trail winding gently up Carter Mountain to the cool streams and swimming holes of Sugar Hollow, Charlottesville is spoiled for choice when it comes to great hiking. And every one of those trails has one thing in common: They’re all improved by having a dog at your side. Sometimes a minor tune-up […]

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Oh, deer: How to manage tick season as a pet owner

Ticks occupy a special place in our world, and it’s not a good place. The degree of revulsion they trigger in most people is spectacular. I can have the cutest, happiest puppy wagging his tail on the exam table. But if I find one little tick, clients’ faces reflexively contort in ways that would suggest […]

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Movin’ on up: Helping pets adjust to a new home

There are few experiences in life that elicit both excitement and distress like moving into a new home, so just imagine how it must feel for our four-legged friends. After years of a comfy, stable routine, the entire world is instantaneously upended for no apparent reason at all. Nothing is where it used to be. […]

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Can I see your ID? How a simple tag can save your pet’s life

Having a pet go missing is anguishing. Posters go up and APBs are phoned in to local shelters and veterinary clinics, but so many cases go unresolved. Proper identification is the easiest way to make sure that your wayward pet comes back home. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones, and that’s the case […]

Watching a pet age both physically and mentally is never easy, but local veterinarian Mike Fietz advises owners to be proactive.  File photo

Fading memories: Coping with senility in aging pets

Pets, just like their human caretakers, face a great variety of health problems as they age. The physical sorts, while awful in their own right, seem easier for us to grasp. There is a sad kind of sense to it. The aches and pains, blindness and deafness, organ dysfunction—we recognize these as the unavoidable price […]

Local veterinarian Mike Fietz warns against giving puppies and kittens as surprise gifts during the holidays. File photo

Holiday faux paws: Why you should think twice before giving pets as gifts

The holidays are coming, as evidenced by the lights, wreaths, and snowflakes that started overwhelming storefronts since about seven seconds after you removed your Halloween costume. And for veterinarians, that means it’s almost time to see dozens of new furballs. Puppies and kittens are common gifts, and ’tis the season for giving. In most cases, […]

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You shall not pass: When pets eat the inedible

It must be weird to live in a world where literally every single thing might be food, but I’m pretty sure that’s the one that many animals inhabit. There seems to be no limit to what our pets are willing to swallow, nor does there seem to be much capacity to learn from past mistakes. […]